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Personal Maps

At the beginning of the semester I said that I was interested in creating map imagery in this class. For my final project I decided to make a personal map of the landscape of my childhood, which was my neighborhood in the small city of Monona, WI (within Madison, WI). As a child I spent most of my time outdoors exploring our neighborhood, which was blessed with good neighborhood design, beautiful natural features, and a safe and quiet mentality. I cannot separate my memories of my childhood from the neighborhood I grew up in.

Looking at a map of the neighborhood, I identified what large and/or natural features were most important to creating the space: the lake (Monona was built on a natural peninsula surrounded by Lake Monona), the green spaces (the neighborhood has lovely rolling topography, woodlands, and wetlands, some of which were preserved in a somewhat “natural” state within parks), and the streets (the grid upon which everything else was placed). This created the framework upon which I could start to call out areas of special importance to me. While I was familiar with every part of much of the small city, there were places that I would visit repeatedly because of certain qualities they had or certain feelings they gave me.

In the end I have four screen prints, a series, each with a different title: Trees of Significance, Places of Discovery, Places of Imagination, and Places of Reflection. Each print has the same background showing the lake, green spaces, and roads, but each one has a different final layer consisting of a number of dotted lines circling the areas indicated in the titles.

While I enjoyed this final project and loved working with my concept, I am not satisfied with the final product. Working with seven different screens was very challenging for a beginning screen printer like myself. I certainly learned a lot about the process! In that way in was successful but if I could do it again, I would have been more careful with color choice, making sure to keep the first layers lighter and the final layers darker. I would have put the titles onto a screen (I thought I was going to letterpress the titles on later, but then decided - after it was too late - that that might look too different from the screen printing). I also would have been more careful about printing a lot more pages so that I would have a lot to work with, and I would have found a better way to register the papers to ensure a correct line-up.

Personal mapping, as a concept, intrigues me. Maps seem to be a very objective practice, but are in fact very subjective. The map-maker chooses what is shown and how it is shown in a way that communicates a specific idea to the viewer. My maps are very personal on one hand but appear (especially at first glance) to show an objective view of a certain area. The bottom layers are fairly objective, showing what is indeed actually there. The top layer is purely subjective, but even so it does not give the viewer any info about what is actually in that space. It merely identifies it as of special importance to the map-maker. In this way it gives up a limited amount of information to the viewer, in a way keeping the viewer at a distance. Thus I am interested in not only how personal maps are interpreted by the map-maker (me) but also how an outsider (anyone but me) might see them. To me they are a reminder, and an invitation to reflection, but to others they may be nothing more than an interesting-looking graphic.

The landscape of my childhood was the beginning of my understanding of space. The passion this landscape instilled in me led me, in part, to my current pursuit of landscape architecture. I feel like I could take this project and push it to other levels in the future, perhaps getting down to a more immediate scale to look at each of these spaces and explore what made it so special to me, and how I might represent that.